Ginza’s rich and poor

Years of economic stagnation along with the demise of Japan’s ‘job for life’ system have well and truly destroyed the myth of the whole country being comfortably middle class. Factors that have also lead to a slowly fracturing society, and, combined with a growing temporary employment market, are creating an increasingly noticeable disparity between the rich and poor, the haves and have-nots. And nowhere is this more obvious than in Tokyo’s ultra wealthy Ginza district. An area that is home to flagship stores boasting the names of Louis Vuitton and the like, but now also those who don’t boast anything at all.

Japanese homeless in Ginza


  1. Martin says

    He doesn’t look happy. You’re lucky he didn’t try to impale you with that rather out of place traditional arrow.

    • says

      Yeah, the contrast between him and his surroundings was what initially made me consider taking his photograph, but the incongruous sight of the arrow meant I had to.

  2. Johnny Still Edible says

    I like that you captured the shocked and admonishing glance from the woman in the background. She doesn’t understand why someone would ever acknowledge, and take a picture of a homeless man. The Japanese will tell you to “just ignore” the negative things, so “they will go away”, and I always thought that was a fundamental difference between us and them.
    We had to learn from experience that negative things must be brought to light – it’s the first step for improvement. The Japanese ignore them and let them accumulate, hopefully not until it is too late.

    • says

      Yes, I was pleased to get her reaction. Like you said, it’s a very common one. Ignore it and it doesn’t exist.

      The trouble is the problem is growing. Very noticeably too. And yet the same attitude persists…

  3. says

    Very good shot for this time of the year when people put themselves in debt for something as shallow as Christmas presents.
    As for the homeless in Japan, it is embarrassing how little empathy the average Yusaku has with the homeless and less fortunate. My friends, usually very good people, always seem to assume that the homeless ended up like that by choice, by being odd or different and refuse to give it another thought. When the Shinjuku underpasses were cleared out, they were happy but nobody could tell me where the homeless had gone.

    • says

      Cheers. Yeah, it did seem very apt. The arrow also looks like one from a shrine. Can only hope it brings him some luck for he coming year. Lots of it too.

      I know what you mean. Heard the same ‘it’s a life they’ve chosen’ speech so many times. Now admittedly the full-on salaryman life can’t be much fun, but how anyone can honestly believe that people happily choose the horrendous hardships of life on the streets I really don’t know…

  4. Ming Yu says

    Such apathy… or is it ignorance? Would anyone choose a life on the streets over the warmth (or otherwise) of a bricks-and-mortar home?! Your pix is an ironic study of contrasts. And speaks a thousand words, as always!

    • says

      Thank you. I always worry about the exploitative nature of such photos, but I feel they at least prove that the problem exists.

      Good question. Apathy if I had to give an answer, but it wouldn’t be a very a convincing one…

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